In the world of dog companionship, there's this quirky thing dogs do — putting their butt on you. Ever noticed your dog casually sitting on you, leaning against your leg or side? It's a common behavior. My dog takes it a step further; he strolls over and plunks his entire body onto my foot. It might not be the whole weight, but it's a good chunk, and it feels like a trusting move. Just a simple, everyday gesture that speaks volumes about the bond between us.
As a dog behavior expert, I get asked about this seemingly peculiar behavior from time to time. My short answer? Your dog loves you. But there are a few specific things your dog is doing when they stick their butts on you, which are kind of fun to know (and a little gross).
1. Their Butt's Scent Marking You (Eww)
Your dog's rear end is home to scent glands that release a unique signature every time they decide to sit on you. We can't detect this scent (thankfully), but it's like a loudspeaker for other dogs. This scent carries a wealth of information, essentially broadcasting to other dogs that you are a part of their family.
Think of it as your dog's personal, portable SD card, loaded with data, which they carry around wherever they go. When another dog gets a whiff of this scent, it's like they're accessing a whole database of information your dog has shared about their connection to you.
If you give attention to other dogs while yours is around, your dog might get jealous and rub their scent on you.
2. Your Dog's Butt is a Greeting
Your furry friend might be practicing this behavior as their own special way of saying hello to you. Dogs might assume we humans share their style of greeting. You know how they smell each other's butts before they do anything else? That’s their way of collecting information about each other. By putting their butt onto you, they’re letting you grab this information (even though we don’t have the sense of smell for that).
3. They're Showing They Trust You
When your dog leans into you, they're really putting themselves out there in a big way. They're not just casually standing next to you; they're entrusting you with a significant part of their weight, a gesture that could leave them off-balance at any moment. It's a sign of immense trust and comfort, a little like a furry hug or a doggy handshake.
And there's more to it. By leaning in, they're also turning their main line of defense, their teeth, away from you. This move is quite a big deal in the dog world. It's like they're saying, "I trust you so much that I don't need to be on guard." They're putting themselves in a position where they're not ready to spring into action or defend themselves — a true show of vulnerability and affection.
4. Your Dog Is Keeping You Safe
Your dog's natural inclination is to watch over you, just like they would for any member of their pack. When they position their rear end against you, it's more than just a quirky habit; it's a strategic move. This stance allows them to keep a watchful eye on the environment, ready to alert you to anything unusual. It's as if they're telling you, "Don't worry, I'm on guard duty."
This behavior becomes even more pronounced when you're distracted or not actively observing your surroundings. In these moments, your dog steps up, ensuring that they have a full view of the area to protect you effectively. It's their way of providing a safety net, making sure that no threat goes unnoticed while you're occupied. This may even be why they sleep with their bum facing you at night.
5. They're Asking for Attention
Dogs are pretty clever and observant, so your pooch will quickly learn what behaviors get a thumbs-up from you. Let's say your dog leans against you, and you usually greet this with a hug or some attention. Your dog notices this and keeps doing it, thinking it's the key to your happiness. It's important to realize that dogs often repeat actions they believe make their owners happy, especially if you have a breed that's eager to please.
So, if you respond to their licks or leans with pets or sweet talk, they see these behaviors as great ways to bond and communicate with you. This ability to adapt and respond to your reactions shows how intense their social intelligence truly is. It also shows how they choose their actions to strengthen their bond with you based on how you react.
Stopping Your Dog From Putting Their Butt On You
Personally, I don’t mind the behavior. And, as a canine behaviorist, I don’t see an issue with it. It’s mostly about personal preference. If you don’t mind your dog leaning in — awesome. If you do mind it, though, let's get the problem resolved.
Remember, it takes time for your dog to learn and remember your likes and dislikes, including your consistent cues to not lean on you. To help them remember and learn that you prefer this not to occur, there are some actions you can take.
Use positive reinforcement training for an approach that strengthens your dog’s bond with you rather than breaks it.
Practice Your Basic Commands Together
Training your dog to obey commands like "up" or "off" can help reduce the behavior of them plopping their body onto your feet or legs — or waist if you have a big doggy like a great dane. These commands can then be used whenever your dog presses their butt against you, just make sure to do the same thing every time so your dog doesn't get confused.
Don’t Give Them Attention
Once your dog does the behavior, just give the command "up" or "off," or move away from your dog. If you act like the behavior isn’t even happening, your dog will notice it’s not helping them any, and you seem to be neutral about the ordeal. It’s when you pay attention that the behavior is likely to be repeated.
This also means no rewards. Attention equals a form of reward.
Take a Look Around
To understand why your dog behaves a certain way, consider your environment. Are there many dogs nearby? Do you react when your dog sits on you, or are you distracted? Did you just get home? Asking yourself these questions can help you decipher what's going on in your dog's mind and why they're resting their butt on you. But it could just be that they love you and want to be as close as possible.